Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a critically important piece of federal legislation that would, for the first time, explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to existing civil rights laws.
Today’s vote of 236-173 in the House included 8 Republicans joining 228 Democrats to vote in favor of the legislation.
If signed into law, the Equality Act would update the existing Civil Rights Act of 1964 by ushering in across-the-board protections for Americans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes protections in employment, housing, credit, education, and public accommodations would be guaranteed for LGBTQ Americans under this law.
Currently, LGBTQ Americans receive zero non-discrimination protections in 26 states.
Openly gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney had the honor of gaveling in the results of the vote.
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) May 17, 2019
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke movingly from the floor of the House in support of the legislation:
For too long, conversations surrounding America’s LGBTQ community have focused on “tolerance.”
But tolerance is a condescending word.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 17, 2019
LGBTQ advocacy groups celebrated the news.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, issued this statement:
“LGBTQ Americans are one step closer to being protected by federal law instead of living in a country where hard-working Americans in a majority of states can be fired from their jobs, denied housing opportunities, and turned away from other critical services – including access to health care – simply for being who they are. Fairness should never be a partisan political issue, and the Senate should pass this bill without delay.”
Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign:
“Today’s historic vote is a major milestone for equality and sends a powerful and profound message to LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, that the U.S. House has their backs. No one’s rights should depend on which side of a state or city line they live on, and today we took a giant step forward in our journey toward full equality. This historic victory would not have been possible without the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies who organized, mobilized and turned out to elect a pro-equality majority in 2018. Now, we will take our fight to the U.S. Senate and turn up the pressure on Leader McConnell to allow a vote on this crucial legislation. And we won’t slow down in working to turn out the 10 million eligible LGBTQ voters and our millions more allies to elect a pro-equality president in 2020 who will sign the Equality Act into law.”
Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National:
“PFLAGers across the country thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) for their leadership in introducing the Equality Act, and the many Representatives from across the country who today cast their historic votes in favor of equality, fairness, and safety. PFLAG families want for their LGBTQ+ loved ones the same things that all families want: job security, a home, a family, and unfettered access to healthcare and other crucial services. PFLAG families have been fighting for over four decades for these protections and equal rights as promised by the U.S. Constitution, and now they are ever closer to achieving that promise.”
The House vote on The Equality Act comes at a time when the most anti-LGBTQ administration in recent memory has attacked LGBTQ people at every turn.
As historic as the moment is today, reality will – sadly – come crashing down as its certain Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) will not let the legislation come to a vote in the US Senate.
Even the Equality Act were to get a vote and pass in the upper chamber, Donald Trump would veto the bill. A senior White House official recently told the Washington Blade that Trump opposes the bill. And his base of far-right evangelicals would scream bloody murder if he signed it into law.
Since taking office in January 2017, the Trump/Pence administration has unleashed more than 106 attacks against LGBTQ Americans in policy and rhetoric. A comprehensive list of those attacks can be found on GLAAD’s Trump Accountability Project (TAP) by going to www.glaad.org/trump.